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the traditional path. However, all the attempts fail, and the family gives up on Owen, labeling
him a coward. The story comes to its tragic finale when Owen, in an attempt to prove that he
is not a coward, decides to spend a night in a locked room which is supposedly haunted by a 14 ghost of his dead grand-grandfather., and is found dead the following morning, lying on the
floor “like a young soldier on a battle field”.
Williams’ argumentation unfolds in the following way. There are, he claims, two ways
in which we speak about reasons for action. One is when we claim that person A has a reason
to f, if and only if she has a motive which would be “served or furthered” by her f-ing21. The
other is when we claim that no such motive is necessary for the person A to have a reason to f.
Provisionally, Williams names the first manner of speaking about reasons “internal”, and the
other “external”, and even identifies two corresponding types of reasons – internal and
external reasons. The distinction is provisional since his whole article is aimed at proving, and
indeed in the end claims to have proven, that there is no such thing as external reasons. How
is that supposed to be the case?
First, Williams claims, there is a certain set of motivations ( S) that a person A has.
This set is not static, and it is also not reducible to a set of desires in the simple (or animal,
although Williams does not use this exact expression) sense of the word, but can contain
“dispositions of evaluation, patterns of emotional reaction, personal loyalties and various
projects”22. If A has an internal reason to f, than there has to be an element (D) in this set that
f-ing is related to as means to an end, or is, alternatively, itself an achievement of an end CEU eTD Collection desired by D. Person A can deliberate on the ends that she is pursuing in the sense that she can
compare and weigh the ends she is pursuing (in the case they are conflicting or have to be
ordered), reconsider some of the ends in the light of their causal connections to other ends,
and discover new ends to be pursued, again primarily regarding their relationship to already
existing ones (but also, through imagination, become aware of some completely new ones).
That is why the set of motivations is not static, but can grow or diminish. 21 Bernard Williams, “Internal and External Reasons”, Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Ibidem, 105 15 Second, Williams argues that needs do not necessarily implicate motivations. A may
need something (a medicine) in order to stay alive, but still not have any motivation to stay
alive whatsoever. Consequently, she would have no motivation to take the medicine, although
she may in some sense need it 23.
Finally, Williams concludes, if even after thorough deliberation, A can has no element
in her S to f, then she has no internal reason to f. And if, even after that being established, it is
claimed that there are reasons for A to f, than that can only be claimed in an external sense.
And that is where the Owen...
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